Why Patriotism?

(one more post I found in drafts, the issue isn’t “hot” on Kidology now, but this was my response, better posted late than never!) 

churchwflag.jpg Over on Kidology.org there is a hot discussion that was started by a brother “down under” who asked:

Why do American Christians see the need to teach patriotism? Doesn’t God love all nations equally? (see full question and discussion here)

I’ve been watching the conversation, discussing it with family and friends, and waiting to post my answer until I could really give it some thought, and decided to answer it here on my blog rather than just in the Kidology forum. I’d love your feedback here or there.

My short answer would be, I have never taught “Patriotism” to kids in church, but I certainly have modeled it. What I have taught is gratitude to God for our blessings, many of which are being American, and civil responsibility, both which are not USA dependent.

I can go on and on about what a good and amazing country this is, but that is beside the point (and I think the Kidology discussion got off on that rabbit trail, which is easy for Americans to do. We LOVE our country.) I certainly have blogged about how wonderful America is before, so you may read those if you need to. The question posed by our Australian brother was not is American worthy of patriotism, but should we be teaching patriotism in our children’s ministry. That is a good question even if we weren’t worthy of it. Patriotism (or nationalism as it is usually called in other countries) is certainly taught to kids even in countries we would not think worthy of it.

The best definition of Patriotism I found was:

Patriotism is your conviction that this country
is superior to all other countries
because you were born in it.
— George Bernard Shaw

Because it illustrates the point that Patriotism has nothing to do with how good a nation is, it has to do with our feelings toward a nation. Americans have a hard time separating how good we are from thinking we are best. America is great in a long list of ways… but as our critics abroad are quick to point out, with our prosperity and freedom has come a moral cost as well. We have some serious issues not seen in other countries, so it is difficult to give an overall “fair” or objective evaluation of a country. In the end, people will focus on the aspects that support how they already feel, rather than base their feelings on facts. We who love this country will quickly say our good outweighs are bad (and I’ll admit, that’s me!) but our enemies or critics who already hate or dislike us will say that the bad outweighs the good. (and I’m resisting defending how wrong this is!)

I do believe that America has enjoyed God’s blessing and I will say I can’t think of another nation that has done as much for the rest of the world despite it’s shortcomings, and I do think our heritage is why – but no guarentee of lasting power or impact. For those who doubt or don’t realize the Christian heritage (it certainly isn’t taught anymore, or is glossed over or minimized) should watch these online videos, they are powerful:



So we as Americans have plenty of reasons to be proud of our country – but teaching pride for country misses the point. We shouldn’t teach kids to simply love and be proud of their country. What about when the country violates Scripture? What about abortion? Do we love that? Are we proud of the innocent we kill? What about racism? Do we love that? Are we proud of it? What about high levels of crime, drug use, and immorality? Love it? Proud of it? Of course not!

Instead, we ought to teach our kids to appreciate our blessings and to recognize that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) But we also need to teach them what God hates, and the role God’s people should play in correcting those wrongs. We need to teach kids to be a light in a dark world, and there are dark places in America that need that light!

Having said that, however, there is a place for Patriotism/Nationalism. The quote above is holds a nugget of truth – we are in the country we are in, because God placed us there. Even on the mission field American missionaries will teach the locals to honor and support their country. My father in law founded a mega church in Manila, Philippines, and when Filipinos would come to the USA for education he would encourage them not to just stay in America but to return to their own country and help there. America is a wonderful land of opportunity but if everyone came here the problems in other countries wouldn’t be helped. It isn’t un-American for an American to encourage someone in another country to love their country and be a part of making it a better place. America is not heaven on earth – but it is our country, and therefore we love it, even if we don’t love everything in it.

What I teach kids in my church is the same thing kids can be taught in every country. NOT “America is Best”, but love your country, be thankful for the blessings of your country, and be a part of making our country better.

That applies down under as well as up top, and all the sides.

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Karl Bastian is the founder of Kidology.org, the creator of ToyboxTales.com, and the author of OrderoftheAncient.com. His personal website is Kidologist.com He is Big Kid with a passion for equipping and encouraging those who minister to children.

One Comment:

  1. I’ve read a great book in the fall, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg’s “A Colonial Clergyman”, which details his missionary arrival in the early 1700’s, establishing Lutheran churches throughout the US colonies, and his family surviving the Revolutionary War.

    In these journal entries he makes it very clear that America was NOT Christian based, but emphasized a (THEISTIC to secular!!!) freedom in the hopes that those who chose to worship could do so freely, without consequences or guilt.

    What resulted was Henry’s disdain for both crown and rebel, since neither seemed to uphold Christ as their ultimate king. Henry chose to be neutral in the war, a choice that left his 60-year-old frame threatened with death from both camps. It was eye-opening to see his criticism of the founding fathers, including his own sons, but to me also encouraging as a Christian that we painfully and thoughtfully laid the groundwork so that everyone could make the mature choice whom to follow.

    Last year we had a young Muslim visit our church for a few days and it didn’t take long for him to start to complain about all the excesses we have in our country. “All these choices make you weak, distract you from what is good and right.” My prayer for him was to thank God for the choices we had, and that we could serve our God without a foot on our neck. Yes, we have plentiful riches, and plentiful excesses, but we also have free choice in this nation.

    And that is what I believe sets it apart from so many others out there, and when we choose to follow Christ freely He blesses us.

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